Director: Nicholas McCarthy
Studios: Entertainment One, IFC Midnight
Starring: Caity Lotz, Casper Van Dien; ft. Agnes Bruckner, Kathleen Rose Perkins, Haley Hudson
Tagline: Some doors should never be opened.
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: horror, terror, thriller, drama, mystery, haunted house, ghost, serial killer
Scare score: B+
Plot overview: After the death of her mother, ex-drug addict Nicole (Bruckner) returns to her childhood home, which is filled with bad memories and other presences. Shortly after, she goes missing and her estranged sister Annie (Lotz) is forced to come home to confront all of the negativity that lingers in her mother's house.
I was very surprised by this movie. The movie poster (which bears a close resemblance to that of The Frighteners) has stood out to me on Netflix for a while, but I didn't watch it until the other night, after I heard that it has a sequel coming out this fall. Though it started out as your typical dark, slow, dramatic horror movie (I was reminded of Absentia in that sort of dreary aspect), I found myself more and more impressed by the film's creativity and surprising twists and turns.
The first thing that struck me was the very artistic way this movie is filmed and edited. I loved the realism and attention to detail; I loved the shots and cinematography: There was something oddly beautiful about this movie and I appreciated that. Special effects were good and constantly took us by surprise, adding points to the scare score.
Acting was pretty decent. Sometimes things felt forced, but I guess you can't help that. I was relieved that the characters felt somewhat real to me, and that helped balance out any faults in acting or in the script. We should be especially pleased with Lotz, who takes us through the entire film. A super special shout out goes to Haley Hudson who legitimately had the perfect look for her creepy role. That was fantastic casting. Same goes for Mark Steger, who shows up towards the end of the film keeping us fairly terrified all the way through.
The plot really kept me interested, even when the film felt like it was dragging along. I was not expecting this cool mix of reality and the supernatural. There is a fusion of genres here that piques our interest and takes us places we are not expecting to go. Half of the fright/ excitement of the movie comes from the surprising plot twists that go so far as to shock us as they unfold.
Who doesn't get creeped out when they're home alone, or when they hear noises and bumps in the night? Once the scares start in this movie, they don't stop coming. I wasn't sure what to expect when the movie began and we had Bruckner alone in the house and when that closet door was ominously open. As the supernatural forces began to become apparent, I figured we were in for some sort of ghost movie, but then things got more interesting.
The mystery is great. Better yet, while Annie makes her way around Cali looking for more clues and leads, the horror continues inside of that house. The first time we see the silhouette of a man (a la White Noise) standing inside of the bedroom, I think I suffered a mini heart attack. Otherwise, we put up with a lot of invisible forces throwing people around, doors being left open, a pretty cool Ouija scene, and headless corpses randomly appearing in the night. The twist this movie takes towards the end was what really took me by surprise and is sure to shock all audiences. The second that Judas (Steger) crawled out of the floor—following a pretty riveting Ouija scene (isn't there a Ouija-themed horror movie coming out soon?)—my jaw practically dropped and I was just so pleased with the turn the movie had taken. This was another great casting choice, and the way he moved his body around was simply eerie, adding yet another dimension of horror to this film.
Final critique: I would recommend this movie to anybody as a surprising horror film that really delivers. My favorite thing about this was the blend of the supernatural with an otherwise realistic plot, great casting decisions, and wonderful attention to detail and cinematography. Nicholas McCarthy is a director we should certainly be keeping our eye on.